Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Well Stocked Pantry

I love Christmas. I'm not ashamed. I know lots of people hate the holidays and can't wait to get it over with. I must be an odd duck because I just can't seem to outgrow it. I was hoping to get into the basement this afternoon to pull out some lights, but I have a thing about decorating. The house has to be spotless. I started cleaning in the morning and by the time I was satisfied it was well into the afternoon and a little too late. So this weekend I will go nuts. In the meantime I'll share what I finished today.

Look at our pantry!

Completely organized! I couldn't even fit it all in the photo without tripping down the stairs into the basement. Not bad for a first year canner.

And I finally got the cupboard door up. Its just a quick sketch, but at least its right-side up this time.

I still need to paint the inside of the upper cabinet, but I think its looking pretty good. I'm hoping if I get it cleared out most of my canning supplies will fit up there.

I was planning on making cookies too, but the day just got away from me. The husband and I finished our night with a caramel apple instead.

I've gone with my husband's mom and aunt for the past three years to the Custer's Christmas Arts and Crafts show. It features all kinds of local artists, crafters, and treat makers. I always bring home a caramel apple for me and my husband. This year I had to work but my mom-in-law got us an apple anyways We're so lucky! These are made by Big Bear Chocolates, here in Spokane.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homemade Apple Pie Filling

This last weekend went by so fast. We had a nice Thanksgiving with friends and family. I got to cook more than I thought I would, which was a good thing. We also got a start on our holiday shopping, though we are going to be mostly giving away homemade gifts and goodies this year. Most of the weekend was spent canning. We made one last final attempt to use up the rest of our apples and were quite successful.

Saturday we picked up a water bath canner. Up to this point I had been using the pressure canner for everything. The pressure canner is faster and smaller, however most of the recipes for fruit are written for water bath processing. This meant that every time I found a recipe I wanted to try I would have to go into my Mirro manual and check all of the ingredients to see which had the longest processing time. It still worked quite well though. The only reason we realy needed the water bath canner was for its size. We wanted to try canning apple pie filling in quart jars, and maybe only one or two would have fit in our pressure cooker.

Apple Pie Filling

This was a really fun recipe that I found it in an old Better Homes and Gardens canning book. This was my first time using the raw packing method. Rather than cooking everything together, the apple slices are packed into the jar raw and then covered in hot syrup.

Here's the new water bath canner. It barely fits on one burner. However it does fit six quart jars without any problem.

This would have taken us a very long time using the pressure cooker, But they all fit snugly into the water bath, with room for probably one more.

I can now see why people say its so handy to have the long handled jar lifters. That water bath canner gets really hot. This is the processed pie filling leaving the canner.

I'm not going to lie. I had my first non-sealing freakout with this batch. About 30 minutes into cooling I checked the seals (I know you're supposed to let them sit for much longer, but I was too excited). Only two of the jars had sealed properly. I could have cried. Long story short, larger jars take much longer to cool, and therefore much longer to seal. I checked again several hours later and they had all sealed just fine. Patience really is a virtue.

Besides the pie filling, I also did several quarts of apple sauce and some smaller jars of apple jelly. The best part is that we are now officially done with our apples. I will be trying out the pie filling this weekend. I've never made a pie from scratch so wish me luck.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Apple Peel Jelly and More Chalkboard

Despite being incredibly busy and working way more hours than I ever would want to at work, I've been able to get a few small projects done this past week.

We have two buckets full of apples left. At this point I'm pretty sure they're McIntosh, but thats just a guess based on the color and how sweet they are. They will probably only be good for another week so we've been in a hurry to use them all up.

I had Monday off, so  I spent the day canning applesauce and a jelly that was made from the peels and cores. I really cannot praise this jelly recipe enough. Not only did I get use out of the cores and peels that I would normally throw away, but it tastes amazing. More like an apple infused honey than a jelly.

 Here are the jars cooling. As always I was a little concerned about the jelly setting up, but it turned out fine. This was my first time using a recipe that called for pectin, so I was nervous that the taste might be off, but I really can't stress how awesome this jelly is. Recipes! :  Applesauce and Apple Peel Jelly.

I also tested out my new chalkboard cupboard door. It works well. I'm really into faux bois (French for false wood, cool huh?) right now, but this rough design didn't seem to work all that well with the pig that would be below. Plus I drew it on upside-down. Oops.

I guess its back to the drawing-board. Haha. Okay, I'll stop.

This little piggy went to market...
The new chalkboard door will open up just above this larger one.

Lastly, my crowning achievement of the week, I woke up super early Thanksgiving morning to clean out the fridge! Some of you may remember how my attempt last week somehow turned into cleaning behind the fridge and then painting back there and then painting the trim above the cabinets, etc...

I was going to post pictures of the inside but then I realized how pathetic it was for a married couple to have their fridge stocked like a bachelor. Soda, beer, condiments and eggs. Done and Done.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. The holiday season is officially upon us. I will start working on making labels for all my canning projects in the next few weeks. :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Painting the Kitchen

I finished painting the kitchen yesterday. My plan for the day was to clean out the refrigerator. My husband helped out by moving it away from the wall and when I saw all the dust and grime behind it I got completely sidetracked. I cleaned and painted the bit of wall behind the fridge as well as the ledges that had been blocked by our cabinet doors.

Don't judge me by the insides of my cabinets.

I went around and touched up spots from the last time I painted as well. I even brought out the chalkboard paint to finish the second door of my built-in cabinet. I'll post pictures later this week when its safe to write on.

I really scrubbed behind the refrigerator. Its a very serene feeling knowing that the backside of you fridge is spotless.

Much better. All that is left to paint is the trim and ceiling! I never got around to cleaning the inside of the fridge. No wonder I never get anything done. I get distracted way too easily. Oh, well. Next weekend.